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Wimbledon receives most funding under Covid events insurance scheme

The Wimbledon tennis tournament has received by far the largest amount of government support from a Covid-19 insurance scheme set up to help live events organisers.

Organisers of live events ranging from music festivals to business conferences and car shows found it impossible last year to find commercial insurance, as insurers balked at the high risk of coronavirus restrictions being reimposed. After months of pleas for help from the events sector, the government intervened in August 2021 to provide reinsurance, in a move the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said would allow events organisers to “plan with confidence”.

However, there are concerns the scheme has fallen short of the £800m in cover that was originally promised. The government has so far only disclosed support worth £109m for 18 entities, one of which was the Ministry of Defence in its running of the RAF Cosford air show, according to state aid disclosures.

By far the biggest disclosed beneficiary was the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Ltd (AELTC), the company that runs the Wimbledon championships and whose board members include the former British tennis stars Tim Henman and Anne Keothavong. It received £77m, more than 70% of the total disclosed. Wimbledon’s organisers had previously won plaudits for taking out commercial pandemic insurance that paid out well over £100m when the tournament was cancelled in 2020.

The second largest beneficiary of the government scheme was the British Phonographic Industry, the music industry lobby group that organises the Brit Awards. It received £9.2m.

The government said it was only obliged to publish details of awards worth more than £500,000, and that more than half the events covered were in the arts or entertainment.

The scheme’s overall low take-up contrasts with the £800m cited in the original announcement. The government has been criticised for offering help that came months too late for many events. Events organisers also complained that the cover on offer had important gaps, including not insuring cancellations if an artist or crew member contracted Covid-19 and tours had to be cancelled.

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Paul Reed, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, a lobby group, said the insurance was too expensive, and that it lacked coverage where social distancing was enforced, which meant it “wasn’t useful for festivals or live music”.

“I’m yet to speak to a single festival who took out the insurance,” he said. “It simply wasn’t fit for purpose.”

A government source said the scheme was “demand-led”, meaning it was unable to increase the number of businesses covered.

Other beneficiaries of the scheme have included businesses running food and gardening events and even antiques shows, as well as trade shows on topics such as engineering technology and medicine.

Sally Bolton, the AELTC chief executive, said: “The AELTC welcomes the support of the live events reinsurance scheme in relation to The Championships 2022.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Our live events reinsurance scheme backed our brilliant arts, sporting and music events to continue despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and followed the unprecedented support provided for the culture sector through our £2bn culture recovery fund.

“It has helped support almost 15,000 jobs, more than £400m of investment and 3 million people are expected to attend events supported by the scheme this summer. The generous scheme remains open for bids until September.”

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Tennis-Russian, Belarusian players barred from Wimbledon, British events


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Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete at this year’s Wimbledon due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Grand Slam’s organizers All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The AELTC said earlier this month it was in talks with the British government on the participation of players from Russia and Belarus in the June 27-July 10 grasscourt Grand Slam.

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The body added on Wednesday that it had a responsibility to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”

“We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” Ian Hewitt, chairman of the AELTC said in a statement.

Hewitt said the AELTC had “carefully considered” alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance.

“But given the high profile environment of The Championships the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis,” he said.

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The AELTC, which earlier planned to announce a decision in mid-May before the entry deadline for the event, said it would “consider and respond accordingly” if circumstances change between now and June.

A ban on Russian players prevents world number two Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth, from competing in the men’s draw. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is 15th in the women’s rankings.

Belarus is a key staging area for the invasion, which Russia calls a “special military operation.”

Women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka and two-times Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will be affected.

Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion.

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Individual players are contractors and many do not reside in their country of birth. Russian and Belarusian players had been allowed to compete on tours but not under the name or flag of their countries.

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told the country’s Sport Express newspaper earlier that there was nothing it could do.

“I think this decision is wrong but there is nothing we can change,” Tarpischev said. “The (Russian) Tennis Federation has already done everything it could.

“I don’t want to talk about this, but I will say that this decision goes against the athletes… We are working on the situation, that’s all I can say.”

Wimbledon has not banned athletes from countries since after World War Two, when players from Germany and Japan were not allowed to compete.

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The Lawn Tennis Association, whose events serve as Wimbledon warm-ups, also announced a ban on players from the two countries.

Earlier, Ukrainian players Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk issued statements calling for a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events.

They were joined by countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky — who had enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army prior to Russia’s invasion — with the players urging Russian and Belarusian players to make clear their stance on the war.

International athlete-led pressure group Global Athlete said that banning players from the two countries would also “protect these athletes who have no choice to remove themselves from competitions.”

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“These athletes must follow the orders from their countries’ leaders,” it added.

British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said last month that he would not be comfortable with a “Russian athlete flying the Russian flag” and winning Wimbledon in London.

Huddleston welcomed the latest decision.

“The UK has taken a leading role internationally to make clear that President (Vladimir) Putin must not be able to use sport to legitimize Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” Huddleston said in a statement.

.”..We have set out our position with sport governing bodies and event organizers and will continue to encourage them to take appropriate action for their sport.” (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge)



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